Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Creating a Physical Environment that Promotes Thinking

As mentioned in a previous post I've been thinking a lot about inviting more active learning and thinking into my practice.  One way to do this (that they talked about frequently at InnEdCo) is intentionally designing the physical space in your classroom.  I think the way I had previously set up my room (and the fact that I hadn't changed that set up in 4 years) didn't inspire either me or my kids to think and learn creatively and actively, so it was time for a change!

I started by getting rid of most of my desks and replacing them with tables.  Besides just making the room feel bigger, my thinking is that this will also send a message to my kids that I value collaboration.  I want my room to be a place where we come together to discuss, explore, and solve problems; having my kids sit around a kidney table rather than in desk seems like it might be a better way to do this.  I did keep a couple of desks and smaller tables for when independent work is necessary and to allow my students a choice of working independently or in a smaller group when appropriate.

Next, I painted the tops of all of my desks and tables with clear white board paint.  This turned out so cool!  I love the idea of my students brainstorming and problem solving by writing right on the tables.  My hope is that this will encourage risk taking. When "mistakes" can be quickly erased, it may feel safer to try a crazy idea that just might work.

Finally, I replaced half of the traditional desk chairs in my room with fit balls and raised a few desks to make standing desks.  I prefer working while standing or sitting on an exercise ball for many reasons, not the least of which is pacing or bouncing a bit when I need to move, and I think my students will enjoy it as well.  I've thought about making this transition for a long time but I never did it before because I thought it would create too many distractions or management issues.  After examining this thinking, I was disappointed in myself for not doing it because it would be "too hard."  I always tell my students to "do hard things" so I decided I had better do the same.  Now that it's all set up, I actually don't think it will be too hard, I'll just set expectations for sitting on the balls or working at the standing desks the way I do for everything else.  I'll expect that my students will use the space appropriately and hold them accountable for doing so.

I can't wait for my kids to come and se this space next week!  If you're interested in planning workspaces that inspire thinking check out these resources:

Here are some pics of my classroom set up!

1 comment:

  1. Julia,
    Where did you find the clear "white-board" paint?

    I love your ideas!

    Have you read the book: Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop Talking ?
    When you said that you created not only group/collaborative work-space, I like that you also included individual work/think space. Thank you!